Trailing Trolls published

My short fantasy story Trailing Trolls was published by Infective Ink today. As always, each month, the magazine publishes stories subscribing to the same theme. The September theme is Girls! Woman! Ladies! Chicks! The guidelines insisted that no man should appear in a story, and no explanation should be given for the fact. I liked the challenge. There is no man in my story, only women, trolls, and magic.
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cover_allanramsay3“You’re the Adept?” A surprised frown creased the old priestess’s lined face.

“Yes.” Eriale stifled her irritation. “Do you need magical assistance?”

The multihued sunbeams, streaming through the stained-glass windows of the Scriptorium, twirled around her. They touched the golden embroidery on her tunic, bounced off the diamond buttons, and kissed her pale cheeks. She felt cherished, accepted by the sunny caress. The sunrays recognized her tremendous magical power. Only humans had trouble believing she was an Adept, one of the most powerful mages in the kingdom. Because of her short stature and expensive jewelry, most people considered her an empty-headed noble girl even younger than her twenty years. The priestess’s obvious doubts were vexing but familiar. Eriale braced herself, trying to look taller. “What can I do for you?”

The priestess winced and bowed. “Milady Adept. Yes, I need help.”

“Please, sit down and tell me.” Eriale gestured at one of the benches that lined the small reception chamber of the Scriptorium. Her official position as the royal sorceress made any magical disturbance in the kingdom her business, but what kind of a magical problem could this elderly provincial priestess have?

The priestess sat gingerly, and Eriale perched beside here.

“My temple is in Sedra,” the old woman started, her voice scratchy with age, “a village a few candlemarks north from here. Trolls stole a baby girl from one of our homesteads, while her parents worked with their sheep…”

To read the rest, click this link.

The painting I used for the cover image is by Allan Ramsay.

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Sequels and series

IWSG_NewBadge2016It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. 

The IWSG question for September: How do you find the time to write in your busy day?

My answer: It doesn’t apply to me. There are two reasons.

  1. I’m lucky – I don’t have a day job. I’m freelancing for a local newspaper, and when I don’t have an article to write, I work on my fiction. Or I procrastinate.🙂
  2. I live alone, so I do just as many chores as I want to. If I don’t wish to cook or clean, today or ever, I don’t do it. Nobody is there to object. I don’t have to take care of anyone, cook for a family, spend time with a husband, etc. My children are grown-ups and live independently. I can’t say I’m lucky in that respect—such existence can be lonely sometimes—but at least I write as much as I want to.

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Now here is the proper IWSG post. Most fantasy writers today write series: three books or more. Some make a series about one particular character or a bunch of the same characters. Others situate their series in the same world but vary the protagonists, as if picking and choosing events from the history and geography of their world. Recently I wrote a detailed post about series in fantasy for my publisher’s blog.

I wrote a series united by the same world too, but only two first books, centering on different protagonists, have been published. The rest of my novels still need some revisions. Maybe that’s why my sales have been dismal. Maybe if I published two or three books about each of my heroes, I’d have done better in the sales department.

Even my short stories and flash fiction inspire comments of the kind: “So is there going to be a sequel?” The first time it happened with my humorous sci-fi flash Blue Santa, I was pleasantly surprised. I wrote it for a blog hop challenge and didn’t expect any serious feedback, just a few smiles. But several of the readers asked for a sequel.

Then I wrote another flash fiction, Carmela’s Copy, and got the same comments. The readers wanted a sequel, even though I never considered one.

I don’t think I’m going to write sequels for either of those extremely short stories but I suppose I have to concentrate on finishing my novels and publishing them, so at least one large series is available to my readers.

Have you encountered the same phenomenon? Do you write novels in series? Sequels for your short stories? What happened to the stand-alone novels? Do they still have a future, especially in fantasy?

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Wrap-ups and goals – August report

DoYouHaveGoalsIt is the last Friday of August already, time again for the monthly blog hop Do You Have Goals, hosted by Misha Gericke and Beth Fred. Here is what’s happened with my writing since the last update.

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Short stories

• Wrote             – 2 stories (neither finished; together about 15,000 words)
• Submitted      – 3 stories
• Rejected         – 1 story

Novellas

One of the stories I’m currently working on is a novelette, or maybe a short novella. It’s not finished yet, but I’m close to the end. It’s a steampunk story, or something similar to steampunk. There is a dirigible travel, some adventure and magic, and it takes place at the turn of the 20th century in America.

I don’t know what I’m going to do when I finish the story. There are 3 possible routes for it: submitting, self-publishing for profit ($0.99), and self-publishing for free on wattpad. I’m still considering my options. As the story isn’t done yet, I have time. The working title of the story: Open, Charlie.

Art projects

Although I haven’t finished Open, Charlie yet, I created a cover for it. Even if I go by the submission path first, I’ll still publish it myself later, so the cover won’t be wasted. Here it is:

Cover image

Goals for September

• Keep submitting my short stories.
• Continue working on my second regency novella.
• Finish Open, Charlie. Make the decision whether to start submitting it or self-publish.
• Finish my fan fiction short story, set in Wen Spencer’s Elfhome universe, and publish it on wattpad.
• I have 3 articles to write for my newspaper in September and one maybe-article, if I could get an interview with the guy.

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WEP: my mother’s flowers

Badge_AlfredHutty6For this blog hop, Yolanda Renee and Denise Covey of the WEP website settled on the theme of gardens. It is such an all-inclusive theme, it could inspire hundreds of different interpretations, both fiction and non-fiction. My entry for this blog hop will be non-fiction – a true story about my mother. It’s not really about a garden, but it’s about flowers and a park, and flowers in a park is almost a garden, isn’t it? Same associations anyway.
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On June 29, 2016, my mother Valentina turned 83. When she was 65, my father died, unexpectedly, in his sleep, with a book in his hands. They had a good marriage, and my mom was devastated. She didn’t know how to live alone, didn’t know how to care only for herself.

Both her daughters had their own families by then. My younger sister with her husband and children lived in the same country as mom, Israel, but in a different city. My kids and I already lived in Canada, in Vancouver, half a world away.

Mom felt alone and abandoned. To help her fight her grief and depression, one of her friends took her to a community center, to a class that painted fabric napkins. Before that day, mom had never been into arts, never painted anything in her life, never picked up a brush. She had been a computer professional before her retirement but she took to painting like a natural and she enjoyed it. She immersed herself in her new hobby, began reading books on the subject and studying new techniques.

Soon, simple napkins stopped satisfying her. She needed more sophisticated projects. She left the group but continued painting. In the years since, she has created a universe of flowery compositions, the bright and whimsical acrylics on fabric.

Mother's painting

Most of her paintings are stylized flowers: a shy water lily surrounded by reeds, proud daffodils with their golden hearts, crimson asters peeking out of their tangle of greenery. She doesn’t concern herself with photographic truth. Her pansies and lilacs, chamomile and clematis come in all sizes, colors, and shapes, even those not encountered in nature. Especially those. She had created her own fantastic garden in acrylic: Valentina’s garden.

My mother's painting

My apartment is full of my mom’s paintings. I have a couple dozen of them and I rotate them occasionally. They enliven every room, jazz up every wall, and make my mundane co-op flat worthy of a smile. I seem to live in a garden of my mother’s imagination.

She has given away numerous paintings as gifts to friends and relatives, but after a while, like every artist, she started craving a wider audience. She participated in a couple amateur art shows in Israel, but no professional gallery would accept her paintings for sale.

A few years later, during one of her annual visits to Vancouver, she hit upon the idea to sell her paintings in our biggest city park, alongside the other local artists. The artists’ circle was a Vancouver tradition by then. Every year, the artists set up their wares in a small clearing of the park, surrounded on all sides by the wondrous flower displays, different in different seasons. My mom visited in the summer, so begonias bloomed like crazy, and roses added a touch of elegance to the whole tableau.

I worried about the legalities and tried to dissuade her, but she wouldn’t deviate from her chosen course, even when a problem arose: only Canadian citizens could buy a license to sell their art in Vancouver. Mom found an original solution. That summer, my son was still in high school, at loose ends during his vacation. He wasn’t an artist, never even attempted to draw, but he was a citizen. Mom conscripted him into her scheme and promised him a percentage of her proceeds. She has always been good at persuasion. He agreed and registered the license to his name, while she paid for it. Together, they carted her paintings to the park every weekend.

They didn’t sell anything. Not many artists did, although every visitor to the park wandered by and admired the free art exhibition. Many complimented my mom’s incredible flowers.

In the absence of paying customers, the artists also visited each other and commented on each other’s art. As the license bore my son’s name, the compliments and constructive, professional criticism were all directed his way. His grandmother was just ‘helping along’ and listening, absorbing the critiques like a sponge. My son, the pour boy, couldn’t help but cringe in shame. Although his English is perfect, he couldn’t understand half of what the artists were saying. Their painterly advices, stuffed with trade talk, baffled him, but he manfully kept on the charade for his grandmother’s benefit.

Her inability to sell grated on my mother. For a practical woman she is, having a closetful of unrequited art rankled. In her search for a market, she later switched to hand-painting silk scarves, and suddenly discovered a niche she could fill. The same colorful flowers that graced her paintings migrated to her scarves and shawls, as beautiful and elusive as the rainbow. Many women in Israel wear her fanciful hand-painted scarves now.

I have a few of her scarves myself, and every time I pick up one to go out, its flowing arabesques and vivid petals envelop my neck. And I think of my mother. She still paints new scarves. And sells them too.
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Word count: 850; FCA (Full Critique Acceptable)

After I wrote this little essay I thought: what a grand idea for a fiction story. And I wrote one too. Only that story is almost 4,000 words and science fiction. It happened on a space station. If anyone is interested, here it is.

Note: Sorry for the quality of the photos. I just photographed what is hanging on my walls.

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Question of the Month – August 2016

UnicornsBlue_BadgeText2This month, I missed the question – the blog hop’s host Michael D’Agostino @ A Life Examined didn’t send it to me – so I’m late in answering it, but I want to anyway. Because the question is a fun one:

What is your favorite beach?

Well, I’m not really a beach person. Each time I had a vacation in the last couple of decades, I went to a place where I could see art and architecture or participate in bus tours to some interesting destinations. Museums and theaters were my preferences.

But when I was younger, I went several years in a row to a beach place I consider the best in the world. I still remember those vacations with nostalgia. I’m talking about Crimea, a beautiful peninsula in the Black Sea. At various times in its colorful and bloody history, Crimea belonged to Greeks and Romans, Tartars and the Ottoman Empire, Russia and Ukraine.

Now it’s Russian again, but in the last 200+ years, it has been a favorite place of retreat for writers, artists, actors and other creative types. Its beaches are not sandy, but its climate is superb, and its scenery picturesque, especially the southern coast of Crimea. My favorite destinations on the southern coast were two cities: Yalta and Feodosia.

Two important men in the Russian cultural history also loved Feodosia, made it their home, which put this otherwise small provincial town on the cultural map of the world.

Cover_ScarletSails7Alexander Grin (1880-1932) was a Russian romantic writer. Unique on the Soviet literary scene, he set his stories not in pre- or post-revolutionary Russia but in an imaginary land with a faint European flavor – Grinlandia. He wrote about mysterious girls and courageous sea captains, about love and adventure, about the exotic and the fantastic, even though he never traveled outside of Russia.

He was a pioneer of the genre of fantasy in Russia, the first and only one during his lifetime, and the authorities didn’t approve of him. He didn’t write about communism as every writer was supposed to, so his numerous publications and his fame all came posthumously. There is also a museum of Alexander Grin in Feodosia.

His novella Scarlet Sails, first published in 1923, became a symbol of youth and beauty in Russia. It was and still is the most popular of his works; there were several films and a ballet. Unfortunately, it’s not easily available in the English translation. As it is one of my favorite books, and I’m bilingual, I translated it myself and put it on wattpad, for everyone to read for free. Here it is.

Ivan Aivazovsky (1817-1900), another famous son of Feodisia, was an artist. He painted seascapes. Calm seas and turbulent seas, violent storms, serene sunsets, and shipwrecks – he painted them all. He is considered one of the best and most prolific marine artists of all times in the Western world. His museum in Feodosia has a huge collection of his paintings. So instead of photographs I’m putting here a few of his marine paintings of Crimea. I avoided his storm and shipwreck paintings in this post because I wanted my readers relaxed and happy, the way a sunny beach would make them.

Feodosia by Ivan Aivazovsky

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Yalta, sunset by Ivan Aivazovsky

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Calm sea by Ivan Aivazovsky

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Modern vocabulary in fantasy stories

IWSG_NewBadge2016It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. 

I talked about vocabulary before. The topic is of interest to me. Now, I’m returning to it with a new twist. Recently I read someone’s review of one of T. Kingfisher’s stories. It was a good review but it had the following objection: “The humor and writing style is appealing but occasionally too modern for a folk-tale-like novel with a medieval setting. Kingfisher’s characters sometimes use current words or phrases like ‘okay’ and ‘wait ― what?’ that briefly pulled me out of my immersion in the story.”

DomenicoGhirlandaio_speaksI had a similar critique for my novels, but why? It’s a fantasy. Why can’t its characters speak like we do? If they speak like Shakespearean heroes or like Brits in the 19th century, it is OK, right? But they can’t speak like my neighbors? Who made this rule?

I understand this approach for, say, regency romance. I don’t agree 100% but I understand the demand to comply with the language of the times, at least in dialog, to make it sound more authentic. But in fantasy? The characters in all my vaguely-medieval fantasy stories speak modern English, the language I write it. And why not? It’s my fantasy world.

When Charles Perrot or Brothers Grimm wrote their fairy tales, their characters spoke in a language contemporary to the writers. They didn’t make their speech regress a couple hundred years into the past. Why should we, the writers of today, do that?

What is your opinion on the subject?

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Lately, the administrators of IWSG came up with a new initiative. Every post for this monthly blog hop would be accompanied with one question we all have to answer.

This month’s question: What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

My answer: My first piece of writing was a novel. When I started writing it, I didn’t know anything about writing, so this novel served as a school. Whenever I took a writing class or read a textbook on one of the aspects of writing, I would apply my new learning to this novel. The number of revisions it went through is so high, I lost count.

Eventually, I abandoned it for other projects, some of them published already. My first novel is still sitting on my computer. I might return to it but I’m not sure. I haven’t read it in years. I’m afraid it would be horrible, and there are always some new ideas in my head. Maybe when I run out of ideas…

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Do you have goals – July 2016 report

DoYouHaveGoalsIt is time again for the monthly blog hop Do You Have Goals, hosted by Misha Gericke and Beth Fred. Here is what happened with my writing in July.

Short stories

  • Wrote             – 0 new stories
  • Submitted      – 6 stories
  • Rejected         – 4 stories
  • Accepted         – 1 story
  • Published       – 3 stories (For more information, see my previous post.)

Novellas
I finally resumed writing the second novella of my regency series about Carlyle sisters. The first one, Fibs in the Family, is doing well on wattpad. By now, it has collected 3.9K reads plus multiple Likes. I only wrote one chapter of the new novella before I was interrupted by short stories… again. They are becoming a nuisance. Two new short stories started simmering in my head. Neither is written yet, I still have to figure out how they both end, but I started on them both. One of them isn’t even original. It’s fan fiction, the first fan fiction I’ve ever attempted. It’s based on Wen Spencer’s Elfhome universe. I hope to finish them both and return to my novella soon.

Art projects
Designed a cover for Denisa Lupu’s story on wattpad, Liga Dragonului. Not sure what language the author is writing in, and she supplied the picture for the cover. I like the result.

Goals for August

  • Keep submitting my short stories.
  • Continue working on my second regency novella.
  • Do something with my facebook page. No progress here yet.
  • My ongoing goal – look for a critic group in fantasy genre. No progress here yet.

 

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Three stories published

Bragging! I have 3 of my short stories published in July in 3 different online magazines.

My science fiction story Flower Consultant was published in Aurora Wolf:

Cover_VincentVanGogh“Grandpa.” Katya hugged the old man who had just come through the customs. “Welcome to Nibelung Space Station. How was your flight?”
“Uneventful.” He hugged her back. “Hello, Kitten.”
“Let me show you around. This is you first visit to a space station?”
“First space ship too.” He glanced at the luggage cart with his two suitcases. The little plastic basket on wheels faithfully rolled after them, its electronic signals flashing blue. Katya tugged her grandfather down the corridor towards the lifts, and the cart followed.
“Shouldn’t we take the bags home first?” he asked.
“No. I’ll just program the cart to deliver the bags to my home.”
She stopped in front of the freight conveyer, typed the required information into the cart’s onboard computer, and pushed it onto the crawling conveyer belt. The cart promptly got lost behind dozens of similar carts, all heading towards the black mouth of the sorting office.
“It’ll be waiting for us at home.” She grinned at the old man’s surprised look. “Everything is automatic. You’re not tired, are you?”
“No. Let’s see your station. Lead the way, Katenka.”
……..
Read the rest here.

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My fantasy story Taxidermist’s Riddle was published in Lorelei Signal:

Cover_WilliamBouguereau11_3by4Wily master hid the tails,
Didn’t leave a chart.
Gloomy night expanded veils,
To preserve and guard.
Blazing flame unlocked the scales,
Teeth and claws and all.
Graceful maiden found trails,
Where shadows fall.

The flames shot up over the dry kindling, and Vasilisa shivered.  Somehow, burning her father’s body felt final. He had been dead for two days, but while she could still see his white face, she could pretend he was here. No more. From now on, she was on her own.
She scuttled deeper into the shallow cave, away from the drizzle and the cold breeze that carried the repulsive stink of burning meat. Her father had said in his will that he wanted to be burned here, not in the city cemetery, and Vasilisa obeyed his last wish. She had driven his body, wrapped in canvas, into the hillside village where he was born. Then she had left her donkey at the inn below and labored up the steep path with a barrow, pushing her father’s heavy corpse up the hill. Stupid man. Why did he have to make this last parting so hard on her?
She opened the letter included in his will again, but it was the same as before. It contained nothing but a riddle. Not a very good one; her father had been the best taxidermist in the kingdom but no poet. Whatever tails and claws he wanted her to find—probably a stash of some rare hides for a rainy day—she couldn’t even guess at the location. Why a flame? Why scales? Why didn’t he tell her straightaway instead of composing his silly riddle?
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Read the rest here.

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My fantasy flash fiction Carmela’s Copy was published in The Flash Fiction Press:

Cover_FranciscoGoya_3by4“I want this painting.” The American pointed at Carmela’s copy on the easel. He had roamed Francisco Goya’s studio for an hour before finally making his selection, and it wasn’t a Goya’s painting.
“Uhm,” Carmela dithered. “The painting is not ready yet and not signed. Senor Goya—”
“I’m prepared to pay handsomely,” the American said and named his price. “I think it’s ready.” He patted his big belly smugly. “I like it the way it is.”
Carmela gulped. For this much money, she could pay all her debts and hire a day nurse for her grandpa. She could buy a decent house too, so her grandpa could spend his last days in comfort instead of dying on a cold pallet in their dingy hovel. Could she sell her painting as her master’s?
…….
Read the rest here.

 

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First sentence or first paragraph

IWSG_NewBadge2016It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. 

A few weeks ago, Jennifer Crusie, one of my favorite writers, wrote a post on her blog about first sentences in stories.
The post could be distilled into one short instruction about the protagonist of your story: “… put her in the first sentence, put her in trouble, put her in motion.
Crusie is a master of such sentences, but I’m not sure she is 100% correct. For me, it’s not the first sentence that grabs me as a reader but the first couple of paragraphs. Maybe even the first page or two. I would never stop reading, if the first sentence doesn’t tell me anything important about the story, but if I can’t get to the gist of the tale by page 10, I’d probably close the book in disgust.

In my own stories, I try to introduce the main conflict, or at least a conflict, on the first page. I don’t think it should be necessarily the main conflict. It could be a lesser conflict to put the heroine in motion, get her out of her comfort zone, so she could go meet her adventure. Am I wrong?

Examples of my first paragraphs:

My short story Clerk or Hero – still on submission

After a long, terrifying slide, Tiero’s feet touched the ground. The thin rope tying him slithered down and coiled at his feet. Only his weight kept the loop tight for his involuntary descent. As soon as he was down, the witches dropped the rope.

My short story Gift of Nibelung – published in Perihelion SF

“The war was over,” Katya said, glaring at her former friend Stacie. Nobody was a friend anymore, not after her mother’s ship had exploded in the Vergacians’ unprovoked attack. Nobody would look her in the eyes. Nobody understood. “It was already over,” she repeated, swallowing a lump in her throat. “The time box confirmed it. The treaty was already signed, but they just shot mom’s ship. The gray bastards!”

My short story Tail to Treasure – accepted. Will be published in Bloodbond in November.

Yanick slammed the door shut. “They wouldn’t let me in. The stupid snobs wouldn’t accept my application. They laughed in my face. They said I couldn’t carry my share in any expedition with this… twisted arm of mine. What do they know? Rude, ignorant rats. I could’ve led them to amazing riches, but no. Idiots.”

What do you think? Could you tell what the stories are about? Do they grab you? Any suggestions for improvement? What are your first paragraphs?

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The new IWSG Day Feature is a question we all should try to answer in our posts. The question for the July 6 posts: What’s the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?

Not easy to answer, because a) not many praise my writing, and b) no praise is actually better than another. But here is one of the most recent. As you can see above, Perihelion SF has published my short story Gift of Nibelung. In our email exchange, the editor, Sam Bellotto, wrote: “Thank you for sending us such great stories. :-)”

I smiled for several hours after I received his email.

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Question of the Month – July 2016

UnicornsBlue_BadgeText2It is the first Monday of July, time again for the Question of the Month blog hop, hosted by Michael D’Agostino @ A Life Examined. This month, Michael asked us all a question:

What was the first book (or book series) you really fell in love with?

This is such a complex question for me, because at different times in my life I fell in love with different writers, even different genres. But I’ll go with one writer who turned my life: Mercedes Lackey. Her fantasy novel Magic Pawn, one of the first in her Valdemar series, was the first novel of sword and sorcery fantasy I ever read.

You see, I grew up in Soviet Russia. Fantasy as a literary genre didn’t exist there. I always liked stories with adventures and magic, so I devoured what was available: myths, legends, and medieval romances. When we immigrated to Canada, I still didn’t know about the genre of fantasy, but the selection of books in English was much wider.

Once, I passed a bookstore and saw a book in the window display: a young man, dressed in some kind of medieval garb, hugging a white horse. I didn’t go in and buy the book but I remembered the cover and the first name of the author – Mercedes. I didn’t even remember her last name.

The image of the book cover haunted me, so some time later, I went to our local library and explained everything to the librarian. I asked if she could find the book for me. She did.

I was enchanted with the story and I fell in love with the entire genre. I started reading other books by Mercedes Lackey, and then other fantasy authors. Years later, I started writing fantasy as well.

I don’t read Lackey anymore; I found writers in the genre who suit me much better – Sharon Shinn, Patricia Briggs, Terry Pratchett, Wen Spencer, to name a few – but Magic Pawn by Mercedes Lackey will always have a special meaning for me. If I didn’t notice the book in that bookstore, I might never have become a fantasy writer.

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